With the one exception of 1 Timothy 4:1, which uses the Greek word husteros, every reference to the last days in the New Testament employs the Greek word eschatos. Writing to the Hebrews the apostle contrast the earlier times, when God spoke ‘unto the fathers by the prophets’ with ‘these last days’ in which He has spoken ‘to us by (or in) His Son’ (Heb. 1:1,2). Had Israël repented at the call of John the Baptist and of the Lord, the long expected Kingdom would have been set up, and all that is said of the ‘last days’ of Old Testament prophecy would have been fulfilled, but as Israël did not repent, and as the King was rejected, those last days, like John the Baptist were only ‘in the spirit and power’ of those wondrous prophecies and not their fulfillment, and ‘the mysteries’ of the kingdom of heaven operate, and a mystery always indicates a previous failure.
The six references in John’s Gospel to the last day speak of ‘resurrection’ (John 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24) or of ‘judgment’ (John 12:48). The reference in John 7:37 is to ‘the last day, that great day of the feast’ (Lev. 23:39-44). Although John 7:38 says ‘As the Scripture hath said’, no passage of the Old Testament can be found that contains the words that follow, any more than any single passage of Scripture can be found for Matthew 2:23. However, the sense and prophetic import of many Scriptures justify the Lord’s assertion, among them such prophecies as Isaiah 12:3; 55:1; 58:11; Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Zechariah 14:8. Moreover, there is a division of opinion as to who is referred to in the words: ‘Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’. Some see in these words an exclusive reference to Christ, that from Him the Giver shall flow rivers of living water, and justify the reading by the words of explanation that follow, ‘This He spake of the Spirit’. We cannot, however, ignore such a closely similar passage as that found in John 4:14:
- ‘But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water what I shall give him shall BE IN HIM A WELL OF WATER SPRINGING UP into everlasting life’.
The sentiment of 7:38 is not dissimilar to this.
We must not, in this chapter, fail to give full weight to the Rabbinical teaching which had so moulded the language and the thoughts of those that heard the Lord’s utterance. Here is one example, quoted by Bloomfield:
- ‘When a man turns to the Lord, he is like a fountain filled with living water, AND RIVERS FLOW FROM HIM to men of all nations and tribes’ (Sohar. Chadesch).
Modern usage looks somewhat askance at the free use of the word ‘belly’, even as the seven references to ‘bowels’ found in Paul’s epistles are not acceptable reading to the so-called ‘refined’ today. The Greek koilia, like the Hebrew beten and qereb, often denotes the most inward part of man, and is almost synonymous with the use of ‘heart’ among us today.
It is very characteristic of John to slip in a word of explanation as the narrative proceeds, and this is he has done here:
- ‘But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified’ (John 7:39).
This tendency to help the reader with an explanatory word is seen in such passages as 2:25; 6:64; 9:22; 11:13; etc. Most textual critics agree that the word dedomenon ‘given’ is an addition to the original text, ‘The Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified’ (7:39). The evident meaning is that the dispensation of the Spirit was contingent upon the glorifying and ascension of Christ, and this is implied in John (14:16,17 and 16:7, and stated with clearness by Peter on the day of Pentecost:
- ‘Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promised of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed fort this, which ye now see and hear’ (Acts 2:3).
Pentecost was a germinant fulfillment, and the yet future day, as a terminant fulfillment, seems to be necessary to completely fill out the Saviour’s intention. Whenever ‘the last day’ shall come, this outpouring of the Spirit among other things will be a great and blessed characteristic. We have given consideration to the references in Acts 2:17 separately in the article entitled JOEL and the last days of Acts 2 (p. 400), which should be consulted. We therefore pass on to other references.
James 5:3 looks upon the last days as a time of judgment. ‘Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days’, and in verse 9 he seems to return to the subject saying:
- ‘Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth before the door’ (James 5:9).
Peter uses the words ‘the last time’ or ‘times’ or ‘days’ in each case translating the one word eschatos. In the first epistle he speaks of salvation and of the precious blood of Christ:
- ‘Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Pet. 1:5).
- ‘Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you’ (1 Pet. 1:20).
Here in the same chapter, the expression ‘the last time’ refers to the future ‘appearing of Jesus Christ’ (1 Pet. 1:7), and ‘these last times’ refer, as does Hebrews 1:2, to the period of His first Advent. It should be noted that in 1 Peter 1:5 the word translated ‘time’ is kairos, ‘season’, and in 1 Peter 1:20 the word ‘times’ is the plural of chronos. In 2 Peter 3:3 the apostle reveals that:
- ‘There shall come in the last days scoffers’,
who shall ridicule the idea that Christ will ever come again. Jude echoes this in verse 18. This leaves us with two references in the first epistle of John.
- ‘Little children, it is the last time:’,
and if we ask how do we know that, or what is the outstanding feature that denotes that, he continues:
- ‘and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time’ (1 John 2:18).
This is evidently an outstanding feature of the last time, whether anticipatory ‘even now’ or at length, in the final years of Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks. It will be perceived that the expression ‘the last days’ speaks of the first and second Advents, and of those events, some glad, some sad, that accompany these appearings of the Saviour.
We have now only two passages left for us to consider namely 2 Timothy 3:1-9 and 1 Timothy 4:1-3, the only prophecies that belong to the dispensation of the Mystery. Let us turn to 2 Timothy 3:1-9. The opening words of this section are prophetic in tone and deal particularly with the characteristics of the last days. This feature is very prominent in chapter 4 and it is this light upon the last days of the dispensation of the Mystery that makes Paul’s final word so important to us. Let us first of all acquaint ourselves with the structure of this section.
2 Timothy 3:1-9
Disapproved concerning the faith
A 1,2. MEN (antropoi) of the last days.
B Characteristics of the last days – misplaced love.
a 2. Love of self (philautoi). Love of money (philarguroi)
b 3. Haters of good (aphilagathoi).
a . 4. Love of pleasure (philedonoi) more than Love of God (philotheoi)
C 5-. Form without power.
D -5. From these turn away.
A 6. WOMEN (gunaikaria) of the last days.
B Characteristics of last days – inordinate desires.
a 6. Led captive.
b 6. Laden with sins.
a 6. Led away by lusts.
C 7. Ever learning. Disapproved.
D . 9. They shall proceed no further.
Just as the keynote of the balancing member 2 Timothy 2:14-26 is the word ‘approved’, dokimos (2 Tim. 2:15), so the keynote of the present section is ‘disapproved’ or ‘reprobate’, adokimos (2 Tim. 3:8). The apostle opens this section with a forecast of the character of the last days.
We must exercise care when meeting this expression lest we confuse things that differ. Peter quoting from Joel refers to the ‘last days’, but a reading of the context shows that these days immediately precede ‘the great and dreadful day of the Lord‘ and are associated with Israël’s restoration. The Lord speaks of ‘the last days’ six times in the Gospel according to John, and the day HE refers to is the day of resurrection and judgment. From the standpoint of the epistle to the Hebrews, ‘these last days’ refer to the days of Christ’s first Advent (Heb. 1:2), even as John in his first epistle said: ‘it is the last time’ (2:18).
It is manifest that each writer views the subject from his own point of view, Peter’s ‘last days’ would be the last days of the dispensation associated with the Kingdom and Israël, whereas Paul’s ‘last days’ would be the closing days of the dispensation of the Mystery. We are concerned when we read in 2 Peter 3:3, that in the last days shall come scoffers who shall walk after their own lusts and deny the Second Coming of the Lord; but we should be still more concerned to learn that the closing days of this most favoured dispensation will end in apostasy parallel to the conditions of ancient paganism (for proof of this statement see later exposition), and characterized by the same dreadful motive ‘after their own lusts’ (2 Tim. 4:3). With such passages of Scripture written for our learning, and with the consciousness that the end of the present dispensation cannot be far off, the reader will not be easily moved to believe that a great spiritual revival is on its way, even though such should be ‘a consummation devoutly to be wished’.
In the first epistle to Timothy, the apostle had been led to speak of the outstanding character of the ‘latter times’, husterois kairois, ‘latter seasons’. Not only is there the change of word ‘days’ in 2 Timothy 3 and ‘seasons’ in 1 Timothy 4, but also the second epistle speaks of the ‘last’, eschatos, ‘the extreme end’, whereas 1 Timothy speaks of the period that is ‘left over’, husteros, of the season. Consequently, the state of affairs described in the first epistle must be understood as leading up to the crisis of the second epistle. The apostasy starts in 1 Timothy 4, for the word ‘depart’ is the Greek word aphistemi from which our word ‘apostasy’ is derived, it marks the beginning of the movement that ends with the awful reprobation of 2 Timothy 3.
This departure from the faith is the outcome of ‘giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons’ which, while including antagonism against the essentials of the Gospel, point markedly to ‘spiritism’, a cult that is developing with alarming rapidity and captivating millions. While ‘seducing spirits’ are not named in 2 Timothy 3, there fell [fell=cruel, fierce, barbarous, savage or inhuman] work is to be seen in the word ‘perilous’ times or seasons. This word ‘perilous’ is the Greek word chalepos, the word employed in Matthew 8:28 to described two demon-possessed men who lived among tombs, exceeding ‘fierce’.
Such is the prophetic picture of the last days of this dispensation. The truth forsaken, those who hold it despised or persecuted, the whole dominated by the doctrine of demons; no wonder the apostle spoke of a day that should come when men would turn away their ears from the truth and be turned unto fables. We said earlier that the characteristics of these days of 2 Timothy 3 were like those of the early days of paganism. We gather this from a comparison of 2 Timothy 3:1-4 with Romans 1:28-32.
Romans 1:28-32 2 Timothy 3:1-8
‘Boasters’ alazon (30). ‘Boasters’ alazon (2).
‘Proud’ huperephanos (30). ‘Proud’ huperephanos (2).
‘Disobedient to parents’ goneusin apeitheis (30). ‘Disobedient to parents’ goneusin apeitheis (2).
‘Without natural affection’ astorgos (31). ‘Without natural affection’ astorgos (3).
‘Implacable’ aspondos (31, in the Received Text). ‘Truce breakers’ aspondos (3).
‘Reprobate’ adokimos (28). ‘Reprobate’ adokimos (8).
In addition to thess six words that are repeated from Romans 1, we read: ‘lovers of their own selves, lovers of money (covetous), blasphemers, unthankful (which finds an echo in Romans 1:21, neither were thankful), unholy, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God’. Standing out prominently in this dreadful list is one word ‘love’. We have indicated it in the structure, but must draw attention to it again:
- ‘Lovers of their own selves’ philautoi.
- ‘Lovers of silver, or money (covetous)’ philarguroi.
- ‘Not loving those that are good’ aphilagathoi.
- ‘Lovers of pleasure’ philedonoi.
- ‘Lovers of God’ philotheoi.
We see there had been erring from the ‘truth’ (2 Tim. 2:18) and resisting the ‘truth’ (2 Tim. 3:8) and turning away from the ‘truth’ (2 Tim. 4:4); there were also some who had made shipwreck concerning ‘faith’ (1 Tim. 1:19); there was to be a departure from the ‘faith’ (1 Tim. 4:1); some had erred from the ‘faith’ (1 Tim. 6:10, 21); others were reprobate concerning the ‘faith’ (2 Tim. 3:8).
When, however, the apostle comes to the outstanding characteristic of ‘the last days’, he does not speak of faith or truth, but goes deeper, and speaks of love. It was his constant practice to associate faith with love. To the Galatians he spoke of ‘faith which worketh by love’ (Gal. 5:6). To the Colossians he wrote, linking their ‘faith in the Lord Jesus’ with their ‘love unto all the saints’ (Col. 1:4).
Did he speak to the Thessalonians of that ‘work of faith’? then he coupled it immediately with their ‘labour of love’ (1 Thess. 1:3). The good tidings that rejoiced his heart were concerning their ‘faith and love’ (1 Thess. 3:6), and the very breastplate was dual, it was a ‘breastplate of faith and love’ (1 Thess. 5:8). So also when writing to Timothy the apostle spoke of his own commission as being ‘with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim. 1:14), and when he would exhort Timothy, he links ‘faith and love’ together (1 Tim. 6:11), and points to his own life as an example of ‘faith, longsuffering, love’ (2 Tim. 3:10).
It may be that some reader has expected a fuller analysis of the dreadful times that are ahead of us, and is disappointed because we have not pursued the blasphemy, incontinence and treachery of the last days with all their harrowing effects upon heart and mind. We believe, however, that the judicious will realize that the time and space occupied by the preceding exposition of the fundamental character of love is more than justified, for it is just there that we are most vulnerable and where the best of us break down.
However many the hindrances and the countermoves of the Enemy, the last days will come, and their shadows already are visible on the horizon. We however rejoice in spite of all the dark prospect that looms ahead, for
- ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’ (Psa. 30:5).
(3) The beginning of apostasy in the dispensation of the Mystery
The fact that the church (ecclesia) of the One Body is called under the dispensation of the Mystery; the fact that this Mystery is in the nature of a parenthesis in the revealed outworking of the purpose of the ages; the fact that this parenthesis is but an alternative to saying that Israël as a nation is set aside in the years 63-64 AD (Acts 28:26-29) and become for the time being lo-ammi (‘not My people’); the fact that while Israël as a nation is lo-ammi, prophetic times are not computable, prove that it is utterly unscriptural, as it is futile, to attempt to forecast ‘the time of the end’, to envisage the year of the Lord’s return, or to introduce into the present time the signs of the end referred to in Matthew 24, such as ‘wars and rumors of wars’.
While all this is true, it is nevertheless equally true that the great world goes on around us. Nations are pursuing their policies; changes that plainly herald a crisis are everywhere apparent, and therefore it seems that some notes upon the present aspects of things with a brief summary of what ‘must shortly come to pass’ may be of service.
In the first place we must turn to those epistles which contain the revelation of the Mystery, and note anything that is said concerning the trend of affairs that mark the apostasy and the character of the days at the close of the dispensation of the Mystery. Though found in the epistles of the Mystery, the apostasy is antagonistic to it, and will run on and develop into the great prophetic era known as ‘the last days’, when the church (ecclesia) of the One Body is complete.
Turning first to the epistle to the Ephesians, we naturally find that its contents are devoted mostly to making known the basic truth of the new dispensation. It contains, nevertheless, the germ of apostasy with which this dispensation closes.
Firstly, this church (ecclesia) was ‘chosen in Him before the overthrow of the world’ (Eph. 1:4), and this fact shows that the antagonism which brought about the ‘overthrow’, and which is associated with the fall of the principalities and powers, together with one originally called ‘the anointed cherub’ (Ezek. 28:14) must of necessity be at the root of the spiritual opposition that is expressed in the pages of Scripture, and in the experience of all who have stood for the truth of the Mystery.
Secondly, Ephesians 2:2 makes it very clear that there is a mighty spiritual antagonist whose energy (‘the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’) is so great that it is placed in contrast with the energy (‘the working of the mighty power which He wrought in Christ’) that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him far above all. The mighty antagonist is called ‘The prince of the power of the air’.
Thirdly, the methods adopted by these evil powers are indicated in Ephesians 4:14 where it speaks of ‘every wind of doctrine, by the cunning craftiness, whereby there lie in wait to deceive’; and again in Ephesians 5:11 and 18: ‘Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness’; Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess’.
Fourtly, the last chapter of Ephesians reveals most definitely the nature of the foe.
- ‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood in heavenly places, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness’ (Eph. 6:12 author’s translation).
and the whole armour of God is provided in view of ‘the evil day’ (6:13).
We have not put forward any justification for our revised translation in these four phases of truth; this we have done in the series on Ephesians which runs through The Berean Expositor, volumes 35 to 42. We press on for the moment in our quest to discover what is indicated in these later epistles of Paul concerning the character of the age as the dispensation of the Mystery nears its close.
The references in Philippians are of a general character. They indicate the dangers that lurk within the church (ecclesia) and which necessarily contribute to the failure at the end. Such passages as the following give an indication of the leaven that works the mischief:
- ‘Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ … that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel’ (Phil. 1:27).
- ‘All seek their own, not the things which are in Jesus Christ’s (2:21).
- ‘Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision’ (3:2).
- ‘Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ’ (3:17,18).
It will be observed that whereas Ephesians reveals the spiritual foes that attack the church (ecclesia) from without, Philippians draws attention to the evils that are within, which will help that outside attack. These two aspects are naturally in perfect harmony with the distinctive objects of these two related epistles.
Turning to Colossians, we have an epistle which traverses much the same ground as is covered by Ephesians, but which also introduces the note of warning and the reference to the prize (Col. 2:18), which links it on to Philippians as well. We are warned against enticing words, philosophy, tradition, rudiments, shadows, voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, ordinances and the neglecting of the body found in chapter 2, which ‘beguile of the reward’ (verse 18). There is not so much revealed in Colossians concerning other forms of attack by spiritual foes, the revelation being rather the assurance of their overthrow.
- ‘Who hath delivered us from the authority of darkness’ (Col. 1:13 author’s translation).
- Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it’ (2:15).
After writing these three prison epistles and the short epistle to Philemon, the apostle was liberated for a time, and occupied his freedom in establishing the church (ecclesia) as far as that was possible. The church (ecclesia) at Phillipi had ‘bishops’ and deacons’ (Phil. 1:1), and there is no reason why the church (ecclesia) of the One Body should not be ruled ‘decently and in order’. Consequently we find both in 1 Timothy and Titus a concern regarding the character and appointment of bishops and deacons.
The evils exposed in 1 Timothy are complicated; we therefore tabulate them, and leave the analysis for private study. There is ‘other doctrine’ (1:3; 6:3) and ‘the doctrines of demons’ (4:1). There are ‘fables and endless genealogies’, vain jangling’, teachers of the law who understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm’, and in regard to faith and a good conscience, there are some who have ‘made shipwreck’ (1:7,19). There is the warning concerning the abuse of prayer, the vanity of outward adornment and the usurpation of authority by woman over man in the matter of teaching, indicated as a contributive cause of failure (2:8, 9-12). The moral and spiritual qualifications for bishops and deacons are pointed in their suggestiveness. Take, for example, one qualification of the bishops:
- ‘One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?’) (1 Tim. 3:4,5).
Other statements such as ‘not given to wine’, ‘not greedy of filthy lucre’, ‘not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into condemnation of the devil’ (3:3,6) indicate contributory causes to the failure of the testimony.
In 1 Timothy 4, however, the Spirit ‘speaketh expressly’ and definitely reveals that ‘in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons … forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth’ (4:1-3). ‘Profane and old wives’ fables’ and the over-emphasis upon ‘bodily exercise’ follow these solemn utterances (4:7,8), showing how interrelated the doctrines of demons may be with matters of everyday life. Provisions for young widows against Satan’s snares is made in 1Timothy 5:11-15, and an undue abstemiousness on the part of Timothy is corrected in 1 Timothy 5:23. Timothy is told to withdraw himself from those who teach ‘other doctrine’ (6:3-5), and is warned against the ‘love of money’, the ‘trust in uncertain riches’, and the ‘vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called’ (6:10,17,20).
Finally, in 2 Timothy we have the warning concerning a ‘spirit of cowardice’ that would be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord or of Paul His prisoner, and also the necessity to hold fast a form of sound words received from Paul (2 Tim. 1:7,8,13). In chapter 2 we have the many hindrances that are found in the path of him who would run for the crown. There are the ‘entangling affairs of this life’ and ‘the denying of the Lord’ (2:4,12). Great emphasis is placed upon the principle of ‘right division’ so that the workman shall have no need for shame (2:15); ‘profane and vain babblings’ are once more mentioned (2:16), and the figure of the great house is introduced to urge the believer to ‘purge himself’ so that he may be a vessel unto honour (2:19-21). The avoidance of youthful lusts, foolish and unlearned questions, and strife are enjoined (2:22-24). 2 Timothy 3 adds to the Spirit’s ‘express’ statement of 1 Timothy 4 by saying:
- ‘This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
- ‘Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived’ (3:13).
This awful revelation is supplemented in chapter 4 by the words:
- ‘The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables’ (4:3,4).
The forsaking of Paul by Demas because he ‘loved this present world’ (verse 10) must be included as a warning and a symptom in this dreadful foreshadowing of the perilous times that must surely come.
Here, as contributory causes to this one dreadful end, we have such widely divergent agencies as spiritual wickednesses and the matter of woman’s dress, and usurpation of authority over the man. We have doctrines of demons closely associated with the matter of diet. We have bodily exercise, young widows, water drinking, neglecting the body, ruling the house well, all closely allied with rightly dividing the word of truth, and being unashamed of the testimony of the Lord’s prisoner.
A survey of the causes that lead to such an end is surely humbling to us all, and we realize that we all have shared in the downward movement. The only reference to ‘repentance’ in Paul’s later ministry occurs in 2 Timothy 2:25, and possibly none can read this article without feeling cause for repentance in many particulars.
We do not intend to dwell on these passages; they have been assembled so that we shall see what the age will be like when the church (ecclesia) of the One body is complete, the dispensation closes, and when prophetic times once more begin to run their destined course.
Joel and the last days of Acts 2
A Brief Note on the Prophet Joel, with particular reference to Peter’s quotation as recorded in Acts 2
The Prophecy of Joel is undated, and we have purposely limited ourselves to the date prophecies in the Analysis, but it contains references to the future that impinge upon New Testament times, and must be given a consideration here. Its outstanding thoughts are REPENTANCE and RESTORATION, both of which form the groundwork of Peter’s ministry in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles:
- ‘Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God … Who knoweth if He will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him?’ (Joel 2:13,14).
- ‘And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, My great army which I sent among you’ (Joel 2:25).
The passage that demands our attention is that which follows this promise of restoration:
‘And it shall come to pass afterward’ (Joel 2:28).
The word ‘afterward’ cannot stand alone, we must supply mentally the answer to ‘after what?’ and here the answer is ‘after the promised restoration, after the day comes when Israël as the people of God shall never be ashamed’. It is obvious to any student of Prophecy that this happy day of Israël’s restoration has not yet come, and that consequently some Scriptural and logical reason must have justified Peter’s quotation of Joel 2:28-32, in Acts 2:17-21. A few variations are observable in Peter’s quotation, that depart both from the Septuagint and from the Hebrew original, but these do not constitute a problem.
What does constitute a problem of interpretation is the reason for quoting Joel 2:28-32 on the day of Pentecost. Peter most certainly called the people to repentance, and linked repentance with the time of restoration which had been the burden of prophecy since the world began, but if Pentecost was the restoration long hoped for, Peter could not have said what he did in Acts 3:19-26. When we examine his quotation more closely we discover that he made a most important alteration. He DID NOT because he COULD NOT say ‘It shall come to pass AFTERWARD‘ for the promised restoration was yet future, he could only say:
- ‘It shall come to pass in the last days’ (Acts 2:17).
It is an exegetical mistake of the first magnitude to assume that Peter is providing us with a basic text upon which we may erect a structure of ‘the last days’ here, he is simply accommodating the passage to answer a most simple and somewhat trivial objection. Upon twelve men had come the ‘power from on high’ with the result that the Jews who had come from the twelve specified nations (Acts 2:9-11) heard them speak the words of God in the tongue in which they had been born. Some were amazed and said ‘what meaneth this?’ Others mocking said ‘these men are full of new wine’, but Peter said ‘these are not drunken … this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel‘ and proceeds to quote the whole passage. His answer amounted to this: ‘If you are going to attribute this initial outpouring of the Spirit which has endued these twelve men with power for their ministry, to the effects of wine and drunkenness, what will you say when the great outpouring of the Spirit takes place AFTER the restoration actually comes?’ For this reason, if for no other, Acts 2:16-21 is the last passage to refer to in the construction of any scheme of the prophetic period known as the ‘last days’; any other reference is preferable to this, for the simple reason that Peter was accommodating this passage to rebuke those that mocked.
We do not attempt an examination of the prophetic period known as the ‘last days’ here, but the subject is considered in the article LAST DAYS, but a word to the wise we trust will be sufficient. ‘In those days’, i.e. the days of which Joel was speaking, God said:
- ‘For, behold in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations‘ (Joel 3:1,2).
If any are at all doubtful as to the fact that ‘blood and fire and pillars of smoke’, the darkening of the sun, and the turning of the moon into blood are judgments and not blessings, [It has actually been expressed, that however strange it may appear, these dreadful occurrences must somehow be ‘blessings’; such is the condition of mind into which a false interpretation of Peter’s quotation can lead the most earnest seeker after truth] let him read Joel 3:15,16
Out: ‘Prophetic Truth’ / Charles H. Welch
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THE CHAPEL OF THE OPENED BOOK / LONDON
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Bediening van het geheimenis – Efeze 3:9
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Gerard J.C. Plas